Freedom is the ultimate human goal.
Sure, when asked, a lot of people cite happiness as their nirvana. But when you pull it apart, it’s not happiness they want — it’s freedom.
Freedom from the relentless heap of “life admin” tasks that lie ahead of us every day. Freedom from our worries. Freedom from having to keep other people happy and live the lives they have in mind for us.
Freedom from the grind of sameness. Freedom from relationships that drag us down. Freedom from having to spend hours doing things we don’t much like to get paid by people we don’t much like, either.
Freedom to own our time. To live our lives on our own terms. To be who we wanna be.
Hmmm. Not much to ask, is it?
You Don’t Have to Aim That Big
For many people, living a life of freedom seems out of reach.
To be fair, it’s hard to see beyond the cold press of daily life, the stuff-we-have-to-do in order to fulfil our responsibilities and make ends meet.
But freedom doesn’t have to be about getting to the point where you have absolute control of your life 24/7. It can start small. It can be worked towards. It can be attained by slow degrees.
The best way to start is with the things you need to free yourself from.
Here are six of the best.
1. Stop overthinking everything.
The chat and clutter in our heads has a lot to answer for — especially when it strikes up around 3am. Most overthinking takes us into the past (to things we can’t change) or into the future (to things that haven’t happened and probably never will). Okay some of those thoughts and worries are valid, but they have a nasty habit of taking over. We would do much better to develop some solid routines to support our plans, then focus (daily) on what we have to do to work towards them.
2. Stop trying to be an incredible person.
Look, it’s good to aim to be a decent person. It’s great to be kind. It’s smart to know your values and do your best to stick to them. But a lot of people strive to be someone others admire, to “help and inspire others”. I’ve always thought it was weird, and a little arrogant, to try to be inspirational. Just do your stuff, focus on inspiring yourself and let others decide who inspires them.
3. Stop trying to please everyone.
Because this will just make you tired and maybe resentful. People pleasers are generally nice people whose kindness ends up compromising their own health and wellbeing. I know you get out of life what you put in. Life is supposed to be a give-take arrangement; it’s commendable to be a giver, but some people will take advantage of that. Practice putting yourself first, sometimes.
4. Stop trying to leave your mark.
A lot of people bust ass to try to leave their mark on their world. A tiny few of them become so famous that 100 years after their death they have questions written about them for TV game shows. I don’t know about you, but that’s not my reason for getting up in the morning. The reality is most of us will barely make a ripple. It’s better just to do your thing, have some fun, make your own small contribution and leave it at that.
My favourite walk winds down through an old city graveyard. I always stop to look at one gravestone: It says “here lies Dinah, beloved wife of William, she hath done what she could.” Best epitaph ever. It says nothing about her work or her morning routines or her worries or her vices or her legacy. She just did her best. And that was good enough.
5. Stop caring what other people (with different dreams) think of you.
It’s the finest, most freeing thing when you realise how little other people are thinking about you. They’re. Just. Not. Or they might be a little bit but only in between everything that’s going on for THEM. And only because your descent into madness makes them feel better and more normal. Sigh.
Be decent. Don’t hurt people. But beyond that, don’t look sideways.
6. Stop chasing other people’s dreams.
Pause for a minute and make sure the dream you are chasing is your own. In the great rush of life it’s pretty easy to latch onto someone else’s plans or do what everyone else is doing, especially when we’re not sure what we want for ourselves. You don’t need to be a YouTube sensation or work for yourself or buy a house or own a dog or go to University or have sex twice a week or watch CNN daily or have kids or understand cryptocurrency. UNLESS that’s exactly what you want to do.
One life, one dream. Or many dreams. Just make sure they’re all yours.